Keep Learning to Keep Leading
In late January at the Texas Association of School Administrators Conference, I had the opportunity to listen to our new Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath. The new commissioner spoke about his plans to be out in the field, interviewing legislators, superintendents and ESC directors. Morath's speech provided a refreshing dose of honesty about his role in our state.
Specifically, Morath acknowledges that he has a lot to learn. And don't we all? While the commissioner will be governing a body of learners, it is important for Morath to become a life-long learner himself.
In addition to being a learner, Morath also says he is a reformer. The word “reform," however, scares a lot of Texas educators. What reform really means is change. Fear of change is commonplace in our world today- we even have a scary name for it, "Metathesiophobia." Say that three times fast.
Nevertheless, our new commissioner has a proven track record with his service as a school board member of Dallas ISD. With that in mind, I believe we must give him an opportunity to be a reformer for our state. That is, just as long as he doesn’t use the “cookie-cutter” approach. Surely Morath doesn’t think that the strategies that he used in Dallas ISD will work for all of the 1,000+ districts in Texas! Will this Commissioner of Education LISTEN when he interviews the educators in the field? He must keep the line of communication open; a two-way street. I challenge Commissioner Morath to Keep Learning to Keep Leading. Change does not have to be scary- especially if that change is informed by the lessons learned in our school districts.
While working at the Texas Education Agency, I had the privilege to work for three different Commissioners of Education: Dr William Kirby, Dr. Skip Meno, and Dr. Mike Moses. Dr. Kirby stands out as a passionate leader with a sharp business-mind, preparing himself to address the financial side of public education. During the six years of service with the state, we were able to introduce model interdisciplinary curriculums for districts to customize for their use. But too often I felt like we got wrapped up in policy and procedures and forgot about who our customers were….the Texas students. We stopped learning from the people we were meant to serve.
I challenge all educators to always be learning. As John F. Kennedy famously said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other.” We all can be leaders….not just state level, district level, but grassroots/community level! Who will join me in striving to be a leader in our home and community? To be laser-focused on improving performance for every student within our touch? We must give every student the same experience, one of quality education.
Commissioner Morath, I am encouraged by your message. Please listen to ALL Texans, don’t get wrapped up in state and federal details, let the grassroots leaders convey their educational needs and goals and always be learning.